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Do fish and chips really taste better at the seaside?

PUBLISHED: 18:51 21 June 2015 | UPDATED: 13:11 24 October 2015

Fish and chips at the seaside - do they taste better?

Fish and chips at the seaside - do they taste better?

Charlotte Gale, 2012

Brace yourselves for a culinary conundrum that’s led to many a scrap

Do fish and chips really taste better at the seaside, or are we all just so delirious with hunger after a strenuous day of sandcastle-building, frisbee-throwing and donkey-bothering that we’d eat a deep fried seagull if you sprinkled it with enough salt and vinegar?

Few would deny that sitting on a bench with a bay view while tucking into piping hot fresh fish and double-dipped chips is one of life’s great pleasures, but some argue that the venue doesn’t actually have any bearing on the flavour.

Researchers from the universities of Arkansas in the US and Dresden in Germany have discovered, however, that smells (and, therefore, flavours) tend to hit the spot harder when accompanied by sounds that match the occasion.

They found that cinnamon and cloves, for instance, took on a tantalising tang when Christmas carols were playing and that fish was perceived to be tastier when volunteers were bombarded with beach sounds.

The findings were backed up by Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University (no less), who announced that the flavour could be ‘improved’ by the ambient sound of waves crashing.

But what do the real experts – those talented chippie tea providers of the Yorkshire coast – think about this great culinary debate? Do fish and chips really taste better beside the seaside?

‘Maybe the sea air makes you hungry or maybe it’s the fish in its natural habitat; either way, you can’t beat fish and chips at the seaside,’ said Carol Fusco, owner of the family-run Quayside in Whitby. ‘There’s no more magical experience than looking out across Whitby harbour, inhaling the fresh costal air and tucking into freshly battered cod and chips with a really good sprinkling of salt and vinegar. And don’t forget the little fork; the little fork is vital.’

Perhaps it’s the saltiness of the chips and the batter deliciously echoing the salt in the air that gives seaside fare the edge, or the perception of freshness garnered from watching the boats land their catch in the harbour just yards from the myriad takeaways and restaurants.

‘Fish and chips are far more authentic when you can feel the salt in your hair and smell the seaweed on the beach,’ said Stuart, Carol’s son (and an award-winning fish fryer). ‘So much of how we enjoy food is about the smell, so when you open your box of freshly cooked fish and chips, you can smell the seaside and hear the gulls flying above. Just watch out they don’t steal your chips.’

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